“When we receive visits from our brethren, we should not consider this an irksome interruption of our stillness, lest we cut ourselves off from the law of love. Now should we receive them as if we are doing them a favor, but rather as if it is we ourselves who are receiving a favor; and because we are indebted to them, we we should beg them cheerfully to enjoy our hospitality.
“accepting the task of hospitality, the patriarch used to sit at the entrance to his tent (cf. Gen. 18:1), inviting all who passed by, and his table was laden for all comers, including the impious and barbarians, without distinction. Hence he was found worth of that wonderful banquet when he received angels and the Master of all as his guests.” ~The Philokalia
Hospitality is an often overlooked, yet important, virtue. The giving of hospitality is closely related to the virtues of kindness, generosity, and love. You cannot honestly claim to love people if you refuse to be hospitable to them. You cannot claim to be kind if you limit your kindness to those you agree with, or to those who are friends. The truly hospitable person must be hospitable to all—but within reason.
Limits to Hospitality
The advice given in the Philokalia may have been great at the time it was written, but one has to take reasonable precautions today. Sadly, we live in a time when crazy people will put pins and razor blades in Halloween treats, mail politicians they disagree with poison letters, and repay hospitality by robbing or murdering you. So just on a material level, limits are reasonable these days. You can give the homeless person some food, but you don’t have to invite him into your home when you are alone and he seems more than a little scary.
On a higher level, the spiritual student must be careful not to spend too much time around those of low frequency, those who are very materialistic, those who suffer from mental and psychic ailments, because such things can be contagious in a sense. Some spiritual people can block out such things, but even the most advanced will often withdraw from society and keep their contact limited to avoid such contagion. This does not mean they are aloof or inhospitable, but only that they are protecting themselves so that they can continue to serve man and God in a truly spiritual way. They still remain hospitable, but their hospitality must be limited in form.
Hospitality: a Gift to Ourselves
Most of us would consider it a great honor if a popular celebrity showed up at our door asking for entrance. Likewise if the president or prime minister of our country did the same. But if we are true believers in Democracy and Equality, it shouldn’t matter what the persons station in life is.
Real hospitality for the spiritual person isn’t about welcoming others into our homes, or yards, or work places. Those things can be done by those simply seeking recognition, but with no rel kindness or love in them. The true hospitality is welcoming others into our hearts and minds (again, with reasonable limitations). We cannot know the world we live in if we only listen to those we agree with, if we show hospitality only to our own. We need to sometimes show hospitality to someone of a different religion, a different nationality, a different skin color. When we do, we not only serve God, but we also learn more about ourselves and the world around us. And as the quote points out, we cannot expect hospitality from God and the Angels if we don’t show hospitality ourselves.